This week on HST


HST Programs: Septermber 19, 2011 - September 25, 2011


Program Number Principal Investigator Program Title
11616 Gregory J. Herczeg, Max-Planck-Institut fur extraterrestrische Physik The Disks, Accretion, and Outflows {DAO} of T Tau stars
12023 James C. Green, University of Colorado at Boulder COS-GTO: Cold ISM
12032 James C. Green, University of Colorado at Boulder COS-GTO: An absorption study of galactic intermediate velocity clouds using hot stars in globular clusters - Part 2
12062 Sandra M. Faber, University of California - Santa Cruz Galaxy Assembly and the Evolution of Structure over the First Third of Cosmic Time - III
12067 Marc Postman, Space Telescope Science Institute Through a Lens, Darkly - New Constraints on the Fundamental Components of the Cosmos
12102 Marc Postman, Space Telescope Science Institute Through a Lens, Darkly - New Constraints on the Fundamental Components of the Cosmos
12103 Marc Postman, Space Telescope Science Institute Through a Lens, Darkly - New Constraints on the Fundamental Components of the Cosmos
12166 Harald Ebeling, University of Hawaii A Snapshot Survey of The Most Massive Clusters of Galaxies
12181 Drake Deming, University of Maryland The Atmospheric Structure of Giant Hot Exoplanets
12189 Walter Jaffe, Sterrewacht Leiden Do stars ionise the filaments in NGC 1275 ?
12191 James T. Lauroesch, University of Louisville Research Foundation, Inc. Prospecting for Rare Elements in the Interstellar Medium
12192 James T. Lauroesch, University of Louisville Research Foundation, Inc. A SNAPSHOT Survey of Interstellar Absorption Lines
12202 Gregory R. Sivakoff, The University of Virginia Wide-Field Hubble Observations of NGC 1023: Testing the Origin of Low-Mass X-ray Binaries in a Lenticular Galaxy
12211 Nuria Calvet, University of Michigan Are Weak-Line T Tauri Stars Still Accreting?
12231 Paula Szkody, University of Washington An Unprecedented Opportunity to Follow 4 Accreting WDs into the Instabilty Strip
12273 Roeland P. van der Marel, Space Telescope Science Institute Mass of the Local Group from Proper Motions of Distant Dwarf Galaxies
12283 Matthew A. Malkan, University of California - Los Angeles WFC3 Infrared Spectroscopic Parallel Survey {WISP}: A Survey of Star Formation Across Cosmic Time
12298 Richard S. Ellis, California Institute of Technology Towards a Physical Understanding of the Diversity of Type Ia Supernovae
12307 Andrew J. Levan, The University of Warwick A public SNAPSHOT survey of gamma-ray burst host galaxies
12308 Eric M. Monier, State University of New York College at Brockport Cosmic Metallicity from ZnII-Selected QSO Absorption Line Systems Near Redshift z=1.2
12309 C. Robert O'Dell, Vanderbilt University Calibration of the WFC3 Emission-Line Filters and Application of the Results to the Greatest Source of Uncertainties in Determining Abundances in Gase
12320 Brian Chaboyer, Dartmouth College The Ages of Globular Clusters and the Population II Distance Scale
12322 Kailash C. Sahu, Space Telescope Science Institute Detecting Isolated Black Holes through Astrometric Microlensing
12330 J. Davy Kirkpatrick, California Institute of Technology Spitzer Verification of the Coldest WISE?selected Brown Dwarfs
12446 Michael Shara, American Museum of Natural History Ionization and Light Echoes in the T Pyxidis Nebula
12448 Arlin Crotts, Columbia University in the City of New York Towards a Detailed Understanding of T Pyx, Its Outbursts and Shell
12452 Marc Postman, Space Telescope Science Institute Through a Lens, Darkly - New Constraints on the Fundamental Components of the Cosmos
12480 Chris Carilli, Associated Universities, Inc. Characterizing a gravitational lens in the molecular Einstein ring SMG 18423+5938
12520 Charles R. Proffitt, Computer Sciences Corporation Testing Rotational Mixing in Massive Stars: Boron in the Galactic Open Cluster NGC 3293
12549 Thomas M. Brown, Space Telescope Science Institute The Formation History of the Ultra-Faint Dwarf Galaxies
12673 Howard E. Bond, Space Telescope Science Institute HST Observations of Astrophysically Important Visual Binaries
12725 Harold A. Weaver, The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory A Deep Search for Satellites in the Pluto System: Providing Critical, Safety-of-Flight Support to NASA's New Horizons Mission

Selected highlights

GO 12181: The Atmospheric Structure of Giant Hot Exoplanets


Probing the atmosphere of a transiting exoplanet
The first exoplanet, 51 Peg b, was discovered through radial velocity measurements in 1995. 51 Pegb was followed by a trickle, and then a flood of other discoveries, as astronomers realised that there were other solar systems radically different from our own, where "hot jupiters" led to short-period, high-amplitude velocity variations. Then, in 1999, came the inevitable discovery that one of those hot jupiters. HD 209458b, was in an orbit aligned with our line of sight to the star, resulting in transits. Since that date, the number of known transiting exoplanet systems has grown to more than 100, most detected through wide-field photometric surveys with the Kepler satellite providing the highest sensitivity dataset. These transiting systems are invaluable, since they not only provide unambiguous measurements of mass and diameter, but they also provide an opportunity to probe the atmospheric structure by differencing spectra taken during and between primary secondary transit. Such observations are best done from space: indeed, the only successful atmospheric observations to date have been with HST and Spitzer. The present program aims to set these measurements on a systematic basis by targeting 13 transiting exoplanets. The WFC3-IR G141 grism will be used to search for characteristic near-infrared spectral features in those systems.

GO 12298: Towards a Physical Understanding of the Diversity of Type Ia Supernovae


The discovery image of the August 2011 SNe in M101
Supernovae are the most spectacular form of stellar obituary. Since B2FH, the physical processes underlying their eruptive deaths have been known to play a key role in populating the ISM with metals beyond the iron peak. More recently, these celestial explosions have acquired even greater significance through the use of Type Ia supernovae as distance indicators in mapping the `dark energy' acceleration term of cosmic expansion. However, while there are well-established models for the two main types of supernovae (runaway fusion on the surface of a white dwarf in a binary system for Type Ia, or detonation of the core in Type II), some significant uncertainties remain concerning the physical details of the disruption, and, potentially, the overall uniformity of these events. Consequently, there is potential for systematic bias in the distance estimates. The present program aims to address this issue through detailed observations of a small number of relatively nearby Type Ia Sne. The program aims to pick up the supernovae well before maximum, permitting detailed UV spectroscopy on the rising side of the light curve, and following the spectral evolution to well past maximum. The SNe targets are selected from observations made by the Palomar Transit Factory, an on-going monitoring prorgam using the 60-inch telescope on Palomar mountain. The present observations target the type Ia supernova designated as PTF11kly in the nearby galaxy, M101, discovered on August 25th by the Palomar Transit Factory. This object is of particular interest, since archival HST images allow a search for the possible progenitor.

GO 12330: Spitzer Verification of the Coldest WISE-selected Brown Dwarfs


The stellar menagerie: Sun to Jupiter, via brown dwarfs
Brown dwarfs are objects that form in the same manner as stars, by gravitational collapse within molecular clouds, but which do not accrete sufficient mass to raise the central temperature above ~2 million Kelvin and ignite hydrogen fusion. As a result, these objects, which have masses less than 0.075 MSun or ~75 M<\sub>Jup, lack a sustained source of energy, and they fade and cool on relatively short astronomical (albeit, long anthropological) timescales. Following their discovery over a decade ago, considerable observational and theoretical attention has focused on the evolution of their intrinsic properties, particularly the details of the atmospheric changes. At their formation, most brown dwarfs have temperatures of ~3,000 to 3,500K, comparable with early-type M dwarfs, but they rapidly cool, with the rate of cooling increasing with decreasing mass. As temperatures drop below ~2,000K, dust condenses within the atmosphere, molecular bands of titanium oxide and vanadium oxide disappear from the spectrum to be replaced by metal hydrides, and the objects are characterised as spectral type L. Below 1,300K, strong methane bands appear in the near-infrared, characteristics of spectral type T. At present, the coolest T dwarfs known have temperatures of ~650 to 700K. At lower temperatures, other species, notably ammonia, are expected to become prominent, and a number of efforts have been undertaken recently to find examples of these "Y" dwarfs. The search is complicated by the fact that such objects are extremely faint instrinsically, so only the nearest will be detectable. Identifying such ultra-ultracool dwarfs was a goal of the WISE satellite mission, which recently completed its all-sky survey. WISE has succeeded in identifying a number of extremely interesting sources, including at least 4 objects that have been confirmed as dwarfs with temperatures lower than 350K. These are among the first examples of Y dwarfs. The current program is combining WFC3-grism imaging with warm-Spitzer photometry to verify the nature of further candidates.

GO 12446: Ionization and Light Echoes in the T Pyxidis Nebula

Artist's impression of the recurrent nova, RS Oph (by David Hardy) Recurrent novae are generally agreed to be close binary systems, comprising a white dwarf and a companion main sequence star that is overflowing its Roche lobe, leading to period transfers of mass onto the white dwarf surface. The mass transfer episode triggers nuclear ractions, which lead the star increasing significantly in it luminosity. T Pyxidis is one such system, and it exhibited fairly regular outbursts every 20 years between its discovery, in 1890, and 1966. Since then, however, it has been dormant, a prolonged period of quiescence that led to suggestions, earlier this year, that it might either be headed for hibernation, or in the process of accumulating sufficient mass to trigger a type Ia supernova explosion (in about 1 million years). Perhaps prompted by these suggestions (a la Monty Python Mary Queen of Scots radio sketch), T Pyxidis erupted into activity on or around April 15th. A first set of observation with HST, designed to obtain H-alpha images of the illuminated ejecta, were obtained on April 18th, with subsequent images taken on April 30th and a third set on July 8th. Additional observations are being taken throughout 2011 and im early next year, with the aim of tracing the development of any light echoes. In addition, program GO 12448 is obtaining complementary spectroscopic and multiband imaging observations to enable a thorough analysis of the event.
Past weeks:
page by Neill Reid, updated 2/5/2011